Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Power of Theater and the Expanded Core Curriculum

A graphic that reads The Power of Theater and the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with vision impairments. A new blog series for youth with vision impairments with Blind Ambition's Frankie Ann Marcille. 

As a visually impaired adult now working towards developing a career in teaching the Expanded Core Curriculum, I have thought a lot about what the most meaningful experiences were throughout my teenage years. I’ve thought about experiences that gave me real time, true to life opportunities to learn valuable lessons in the ECC. One such experience was my time participating in theatre.

I first started participating in theatre when I was just two years old. My parents signed me up for dance classes and let’s just say-that was it! I fell in love. I have never stopped dancing. From there my passion only continued to grow when I performed in my first musical at age six. I continued performing, participating in at least two shows per year with my various schools, dance studios, etc. from elementary school through high school. I even went on to major in Theatre for my undergraduate degree.

Looking back, I realize how much the arts did for me as a child/teenager with a vision impairment. Participating in theatre/dance programs taught me discipline and advocacy. Because I was the only person in all of my programs with a vision impairment, it was up to me to let my instructors know what I needed and work with them to find a solution as to how I could best participate. They taught me confidence and self determination. Theatre showed me how I could be confident in myself and my abilities as a woman with a vision impairment. I felt like if I could get on stage and perform for crowds of people, I could stand up and tell people about my vision/ I could engage with others in meaningful discussions about my future and my dreams. 

Most practically though- theatre helped me to understand basic social interaction skills. There was so much that I realized I didn’t understand as a person with a vision impairment. I didn’t realize I didn’t make eye contact. I didn’t realize sometimes that my facial expressions said more to others and I often missed seeing other’s facial expressions and picking up on subtle cues. However, theatre helped me to work on these skills. Because of this, I have come up with a new way to teach social interaction as a part of the ECC.

I have put together a curriculum of social interaction based theatre games to help other blind and visually impaired students to learn these same skills in a way that is more than just educational. This curriculum is emotional, engaging, true to life, and did I mention...FUN!! I am so excited to share some of them with you here on “The Independent LIttle Bee”! Keep an eye out and until then…

Stay Ambitious!

Frankie Ann

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Teach the Expanded Core Curriculum with a Murder Mystery Party

Graphic that features Gatsby era clipart that says Teach the Expanded Core with a Murder Mystery Party
We have new ways of teaching in today's world. This is exciting because it is empowering us to find new meaningful ways to teach the Expanded Core. My new favorite activity? A murder mystery! Yasssss, it was awesome!  Murder mystery parties are fantastic for teaching the Expanded Core because it really pushes our students to ask questions, pay attention to details and work on their problem solving skills. 
A female student reads the Braille clue
I know you are excited about this idea but are you wondering where to even start? Don't recreate the wheel on this one. We bought a murder mystery game and then went to work on infusing ECC. We bought ours from Red Herring Games. Ours was The Great Spatsby: https://www.red-herring-games.com/events/murder-at-great-spatsby/.  Yes, they have virtual games, too!!
Step one is to get the game. 
Step two: identify what you need to pre-teach. I can't stress this enough--we have to create the best conditions for learning. This often means pre-teaching so our students have an idea of what's going to happen or to plot their move. We did three pre-teach sessions. These sessions focused on The Gatsby era of US history. We focused on the "backstory" of the setting of our game. For example, we discussed the impact of the stock market crash, the Great Depression, opulence and wealth in the elite class, etc. 

a clue that is a tray with a wine bottle and two glasses
Step three: accessibility. We made sure all of our clues were tactile, Braille copies of anything in print and large print tags on things. Accessibility wasn't just having things in accessible form. We did this in a vintage hotel so the setting was spot on, the characters were in dress and character. Pretty much everything that was visual was brought to life and accessible. 

a clue that is a doctor bag with a large print label attaached to it

an image of a scene from the party where the students interview a woman dressed as a flapper who stands at a table with "the body" covered by a sheet.

Step four: characters. The characters were the essence of the party! They had to be spot on. Fortunately, Red Herring games comes with scripts which made a lot of this possible. We roped in fun people from our school including our superintendent (she's the maid) and our campus director (pictured next to her). We also included our college transition students in the fun. They worked on their part with the coaching of Frankie Ann (from Blind Ambition who blogs here on The Bee). 

A collage of six pictures featuring the six characters from the murder mystery party such as the maid, the inspector, etc
Step five: TIME. We provided support on asking good questions, how to evaluate details and facts and then provided students time to work this out as groups. Oh man, can you see all the Expanded Core skills?? They are literally ooozing out of this idea! There were so many skills that we intentionally planned/infused for. 
We ended with light refreshments and a fun social gathering as we learned from Inspector Dina Tracy (aka Robbin) who the culprit was (it was the maid!). And just in case you were wondering how we pulled this off during Covid, everyone wore masks, practiced social distance as much as possible, temp checks and lot of cleaning. Check out videos of our fun night on 9MoreThanCore on Instagram. 
By the way, this was so awesome that this is our new annual October event! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

ECC Chill Pill Lesson

A graphic that says ECC Chill Pill Lesson: Put a ECC twist on a popular activity
Happy back to school friends! I know it is crazy right now but we can still provide meaningful Expanded Core instruction for our students. Check out this fun idea: make chill pills with students. Huh? I'm sure you have seen this fun idea floating around on Pinterest or other craft places. You can take this fun idea and infuse a TON of ECC learning and skills practice for students of various abilities. 

A close up of the ECC chill pill bottle with the label that explains how you will become happy when taking the pills
 I referenced our ECC assessments (you should do this, too!)
Here's a few of my ideas of how you can infuse ECC learning:
Community learning: what is a pharmacy? learn about employees that work there--what are their titles? Research different types of pharmacies and locations. Plot a bus/walking route. What are items you can get a pharmacy? Over the counter vs prescription? Safety measures with medication
Social/emotional: review why someone would need to take a "chill pill", what does it mean to "chill out". You can review emotions and healthy ways to manage them and express them. I also like to do a mental health toolbox where students learn different ways to manage mental health and then select ideas to build their own coping skills. 
Independent living skills: how do you manage your personal medication? Hygiene is another great topic at this time. How do you open and store medication safely? Use technology to read medication labels. 

A pic of the ECC Chill Pill bottle and a small bottle of hand sanitizer
Now it's important to remind you that you want to have intentional, meaningful instruction so ponder how you will present this and work through material with students. Don't shove all this information into one lesson! The bonus part is the actual chill pills. We used a mix of Skittles and M&Ms. Another bonus ILS is to review favorite snacks, prices, location of these items, etc. Allow students to mix it up and select their own "pill combinations". 

A top view of the bottle with the lid off so you can see the candy inside.
These make great gifts for others. You may have to stuff them with pre-packaged candies for Covid safety but all in all, it will still work. Last but not least, the label lesson! Teach students what is on a prescription label. We had print and then Braille labels for students. Big shout out to my secretary who assembled these ones! She did a great job. Our students loved them. They were part of our back to school for our residential students. 
Would you like the label to make your own? I'm happy to share! Email me at robbin.keating@gmail.com and I'll get you the template. 


Sunday, May 3, 2020

ECC Family Project 2

Image that says ECC Family Project: Make 3 ingredient popsicles
I quite possibly think that this new series is becoming my favorite during this quarantine time. Why? Because I am a mom and I know first-hand how hard it is to manage life! This is a project that kiddos with multiple impairments or typically developing can do with their siblings. 
You only need THREE ingredients and a popsicle mold--easy peasy! I bought these molds in the Dollar Spot at Target awhile back. You can also probably find them at Dollar Tree or order them for a minimal cost. My youngest (she's 6 years old) did the project with minimal support from me. 

a girl smiles and holds a Jell-o box as she mixes ingredients
The other bonus? It wasn't a marathon long project. We were done (including set up, preparation and clean up) in 15 minutes. Boom! The recipe was a find from Pinterest. Here it is: http://poofycheeks.com/2014/06/jell-o-popsicle-recipe/. Now that we have discovered this one, Pinterest has been awesome to find me a dozen more variations. 

a side view of a girl pouring liquid mix into molds
A couple of important notes for maximizing your total Expanded Core learning: 
1. Your child is the one who should be in charge of the set up & clean up (not just the actual cooking). They should pull out the pot for the water, measuring cup, bowl and spoon. This is the part that may take a few extra minutes if they are new to the kitchen scene. Don't do this part with siblings as they tend to be well meaning but give away the answers. Normally I would suggest that your child also buy the Jell-O but we are in a new normal here. Have a quick (seriously--QUICK) discussion on the different flavors of Jell-O if they are new to Jell-O. Talk about the cost (Jell-O and store brand is cheap!).
2. Consider contrast. Notice that I selected dark blue. It is easy to see. If your child has no vision, consider using a tray with all of the ingredients to keep things organized. 
3. If your child has limitations such as multiple impairments, think about how they can actively participate. That's different than being totally independent. Can they hold the box? Open it? Can they stir? You can discuss hot and cold, empty and full concepts easily. Are they very limited with their hands? No worries--go hand-under-hand with them. Not sure how? Watch this super quick and awesome video: https://www.wsdsonline.org/hand-under-hand/ (watch Daniel Makes A Smoothie). 
4. Let them use the stove! The easiest thing you can do on a stove is boil water. Highlight how you know water is boiling without seeing it. You can hear it! 
5. Put your child in charge of cleaning up! That includes wiping down the counter. 

a close up of a girl's hand as she uses a small measuring cup to pour liquid into mold
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about how my little one was going to pour the mix into the containers. I have a small one cup measuring cup. We simply dunked the cup in the mix and then poured it. She did it all by herself. ECC bonus skills: pouring! No vision? No worries! Don't let your child put their finger in (we do discourage it but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do). Try having them feel the outside of the container while they pour. The water is hot and you can feel it fill up the container. BEFORE they pour have them indicate with their finger where the top of the mold is. This way you know that they know where the top is. 
Freeze for a few hours and enjoy! I didn't add as much sugar as the recipe called for but you can do whatever works for your family. NOTE: for kids with multiple impairments, really play up the temperature aspects of this. There are repeated opportunities to talk about hot and cold. You could easily make a new recipe with a new flavor each week. Once you master these, you can rank up and try the fruit ones with fresh fruit and coconut milk. Go for it! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Expanded Core Family Project

a graphic that gives the tips--text in post
Hi everyone, here is a quick and easy Expanded Core FAMILY activity! Make sunshine cards for patients in the hospital. I got this idea because it dawned on me that people weren't easily able to visit loved ones who are sick. The great thing about the ECC is that sooooo many ideas match ECC skills. Here's a fun and easy way that the whole family can do an activity together that also gives you a ton of ECC learning.
Below is the text from post: 
Get a pack of cards. Tip:  I used some blank cards from Dollar Tree (only 50 cents a card!)
ECC spotlight: 
talk about the price of cards, purpose of cards, location of cards in a store
Research thoughtful messages for cards. Type or print messages for cards.
ECC spotlight: 
use assistive tech to do research for messages. practice typing skills!
Call a local hospital to find out how you can drop off cards.
ECC spotlight: 
research the address of the hospital--discuss landmarks, find out if there is a bus route or careers at a hospital 

an image of lunchbox notes and stickers

We also bought some sticker since we knew that there were some kids who would receive this. We downloaded free lunchbox notes from Pinterest. Note: We put these items into a bag. Our original thought was to put them inside the cards but since we wanted every item to be safe for patients, we put them in a bag with a post-it for hospital staff to put inside cards after they were finished with their quarantine.

an image of a card with the message handwritten in it
 We took our research of get well notes and wrote them in the cards. The message says: Dear Friend, There are times that we need to know that people care about us. This is one of those times and I happen to be one of those people. Hope you feel better soon!
a card standing up with an envelop that says a sunshine card for you
 We know our parents have a lot going on with "the new normal".  Anyway that we can include things for the whole family can help a lot! I hope this gave you some fun ideas!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Support Independence for Students with Vision Impairments with a Teacher Feedback Group

Graphic of the title, support independence for students with vision impairments with a teacher feedback group

Are you loving our mugshots? These are some of the awesome people on our team getting into our new teacher feedback group. Back story: we have some new teachers, veteran teachers and new staff that struggle with knowing when and how to step back to support our students with their independence. It's a common problem. It's often an unconscious problem. People don't realize how much they are impeding our students. My team has good intentions. They have hearts of gold and they work hard but we make the same mistake: impeding independence. 
I wanted to continue to give my team feedback but I didn't want it to feel punitive or create a negative environment. Giving citations is a popular strategy for students in general education. Sometimes they are called "speeding tickets". This inspired this idea!  

an image of the independence violation with the funny male police officer holding his hand out to stop
I wanted to do something that I could get teacher buy in with. I created the (above pictured) "independence violation". Teachers could observe each other and cite them when they are impeding independence of our students. We all know these offenses: carrying their books, helping them open containers, serving them food, getting them whatever and not making them get up---the list could go on and on. I needed us to get present about this hinderance. We aren't doing students ANY favors by doing so many things for them especially our students who are completely blind. They don't pick up on the incidental learning. They need all these little opportunities for independence.
Again, I wanted something that empowers teachers. Feedback for instruction helps with this. But it can go wrong if not handled the right way. People can be sensitive. Fortunately my staff and I have a collaborative environment and we support each other. But....I still wanted to have fun with this. Enter my funny officer and our mugshots! The team got where I was going with this and everyone jumped on board. 

a mugshot of a female teacher wearing sunglasses with a tough expression
Important: I didn't want to just do negative call outs or citations. I wanted teachers to develop to learn how to give meaningful feedback. I added a section to the citation ticket that says "rectify the offense". This allows us to shift from the violation to a solution. We created a bulletin board where we post our citations/solutions and once a month we get together and review them.
We have loved this idea and the positive outcomes are far reaching. Teachers are now going to be more aware of their interactions with students. Teachers will find new solutions for how to step back. Want a copy of my citation? Send me an email and I'm happy to share. Try this out with everyone--parents, teachers and paraprofessionals. We included everyone (even my secretary) on this! Anyone who has interactions with our students was included. We are hoping our feedback group will help us move from villains to heroes!